World of Warcraft
operations in China have apparently hit yet another roadblock as operator NetEase has suspended new user registrations while it applies for a license to operate the Burning Crusade
In the midst of its transition from operator The9 -- a switch made by Activision Blizzard in order to obtain a more favorable royalty rate -- WoW
operations in China have become tangled in a power struggle between two different government groups that differ on how to regulate online game content. As a result, the game saw a long closed beta and two months of downtime in the region last year before it was at last allowed to re-launch.
Now, according to Reuters, NetEase has decided to re-apply
to the General Administration of Press and Publication for a license to operate The Burning Crusade
, and will disallow new registrations for a week from Monday, ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.
China's Ministry of Culture first approved WoW
's relaunch in September 2009
, having taken over some of the relevant regulatory responsibilities. However, many of those responsibilities remain the province of GAPP, which demanded the first suspension after claiming the relaunch was greenlit without its input. NetEase has always maintained it never violated any regulations.
Chinese regulators have become increasingly concerned over "undesirable content" in online games. Among the edits made to WoW
to allow its launch in China were the replacement of bone piles with sandbags and a color change of enemy blood from red to a vague black mist.
The Chinese government is also cracking down in particular on foreign investments in its burgeoning online game industry, which is expected to grow 30 to 40 percent to $4 billion this year. GAPP has stipulated foreign companies "cannot control or participate in domestic game-operating businesses indirectly through another investment company, signed agreements or by supplying technical support."